Thursday, August 14, 2014
Doctor's Perspective
Some find the right time to pass along peacefully

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
From time to time we will hear a story about an individual who has "lost the will to live." For most of us that is a figure of speech. However, there might actually be a will to live or, in some cases, a will to stop fighting death. A few years ago, I attended the American Academy of Pediatrics and the keynote speaker was the individual who plays Big Bird on Sesame Street. He told a story about an e-mail he received from a father whose son was dying of cancer. The father indicated that it would mean a lot to his son to receive a call from Big Bird. The call was made. At the end of the call, the boy asked Big Bird if he would be his friend. The response was "Yes." An e-mail from the father followed the phone call. It indicated that his son had been ill for so long that he never smiled any more. When he received the phone call, he looked at his parents. He said "Big Bird is my friend." His face lit up with a smile for the first time in months and then he died. It was a touching story when I heard it. You might say that it was just a coincidence. However, I have seen similar things more than once. When I was a resident, we had a patient with leukemia. Very sick, the patient was nearing the end. He was a huge Boston Celtics fan and had never been to a game. One day, two residents took him out of the hospital on pass to a game. The patient returned to the hospital happy and died that night. I took care of another patient with leukemia when I was a resident. She developed an infection with a complication called gas gangrene - bacteria were forming gas in her internal organs as a waste product. We could see the gas forming on X-ray and it got worse every day. We could not figure out how she was continuing to fight the infection. Her birthday came and she celebrated it with her family. She had a piece of birthday cake and then she quietly closed her eyes and passed away. I am sure that there are many other stories that people could tell of a similar nature. We may think about people losing the will to live. However, we may not always recognize the meaning because it means something different for each of us. If you have comments about this column or suggestions for other topics, send an email to Dr. Anthony Policastro at

Important vaccines for senior citizens Scheduling vaccinations regularly is one of the single most important steps of staying healthy and preventing illness, year-round and long-term. An estimated 45,000 adults ages 65 and older die annually from complications due to vaccine-preventable diseases.

"One of the biggest dangers is overestimating the power and duration of immunizations. While immunizations help keep the body safe from harmful diseases, they need 'boosters,' or follow up vaccines, to keep the immune system up-to-date," said Therese Ganster, community liaison, Peninsula Home Care." Much of the confusion about immunizations comes from not knowing which vaccines need boosters, have specific steps or are one-time shots. For example, while the tetanus booster is scheduled for once every 10 years, it is strongly recommended that adults get the flu vaccine every year. For seniors specifically, the most important vaccinations to get are:
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Shingles (zoster)
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Diphtheria/Tetanus
  • Pneumococcal (Pneumonia)
In order to keep up with future vaccinations, keep an up-to-date immunization record - knowing what's already crossed off the vaccine "to-do" list makes organizing future immunizations that much easier. Vaccination records are also necessary for most educational and occupational registration processes, so keeping a record serves multiple purposes. For the list of CDC recommended vaccines for seniors, visit, where the timing and frequency of vaccines is explained.

Nanticoke Memorial Blood Drive Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will host a Blood Drive for the Blood Bank of Delmarva from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 5, in the Medical Staff Conference Room. To make an appointment, visit or call 1-888-825-6638.

2014 MS Bike to the Bay The 31st Bike to the Bay to raise money for multiple sclerosis awareness and research will be held on Sept. 20-21. The event also supports programs and services needed by more than 1,550 Delawareans with MS. The ride covers much of Kent and Sussex counties, with a choice of six route options and finishes at the Towers at Delaware Seashore State Park, just south of Dewey Beach. The two-day bike ride, which is either a total of 150 miles or 175 miles, begins on Saturday and ends on Sunday at Del Tech Terry Campus. Register online at or call 302-655-5610.